Picture Books

A Pirate's Guide to First Grade by James Preller and illustrated by Greg Ruth

A Pirate's Guide to First Grade

School is almost out, but pirates are most definitely still in, which is why it is wonderful to come across a picture book like A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade. In it, a young boy gets ready for his first day of school, accompanied by all of his imaginary pirate friends. He awakens to his scurvy dog happily licking his face, but there’s no time to wait! Ye must set sheets to the wind and sail!

The text, all in pirate talk, might be a bit distancing at first, but with a glossary in the back and the clear illustrations, I think most young first mates will be able to figure out what’s going on. A parent could even make up a game with their child, figuring out what “Gangway me hearties!” could possibly mean.

 

Paris in the Spring with Picasso by Joan Yolleck

Paris in the Spring with Picasso

Imagine receiving an invitation to a soiree at the home of Gertrude Stein--number 27 Rue de Fleurus in Paris.  If you read Paris in the Spring with Picasso, by Joan Yolleck, you will feel as if you have.  This is an imaginary tale written by the author after a trip to the library where she passed the time reading about Stein.  She created a story about famous artists and authors as they prepare for an evening's festivities.  The young reader is introduced to such characters as Pablo Picasso and Alice B. Toklas.

Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld

Cloudette

In Cloudette, by Tom Lichtenheld, a smaller than average cloud is happy and well-adjusted to her life in the sky. Being small gives her all sorts of advantages such as cute nicknames, great hiding places and the best view of the fireworks. But when the big clouds sail off to create storms and to water the fields, Cloudette gets the urge to do something big and important, too. So off she goes to find a job.

She could work at the firehouse or the garden center or even at the car wash. But nothing works out until she comes across a dry, barren patch of ground that used to be a pond. Cloudette has an idea! She puffs herself up until she becomes a rain cloud and finally discovers a job just right for a little cloud.

Boris and the Wrong Shadow by Leigh Hodgkinson

Boris and the Wrong Shadow

Boris the cat wakes up one morning and finds that his shadow has changed.  It no longer resembles him.  In fact, to his utter dismay, it resembles a mouse.  But he decides not to let something like this ruin his day in the book Boris and the Wrong Shadow by Leigh Hodgkinson.  However, he is ridiculed by his cat friends.  He is unable to scare the birds.  Now Boris begins to doubt that he is a cat.  Maybe he is a mouse.  Well, he catches a glimpse of himself and is reassured that he is still a cat, though he is a cat with a mouse's shadow.

Boris decides to quietly investigate this disturbing turn of events.  Actually, he is so quiet that he could be described as being quiet as a ..........don't say it.  Suddenly, he runs into Vernon the mouse and discovers that Vernon's shadow looks oddly familiar.  Vernon has a cat shadow.  Not just any cat shadow.  But Boris' shadow.

Sally and the Purple Socks

One day Sally the duck is thrilled to get a pair of purple socks in the mail in Sally and the Purple Socks by Lisze Bechtold. They are lovely and so soft, but a bit small. However, there is something special about these socks: they will grow to the "size ordered." Once she airs them out, they fit just right.

Sally wears them all day - dancing, cleaning, and relaxing. After a while she notices something curious - the socks have grown to be too big.

But Sally is resourceful, and the purple socks become a soft purple scarf and cap....and so on. With each page, the socks grow larger and larger, and Sally deftly adapts to their new size and makes them into something totally new.

The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands

The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands

It is 1941, and the German Army occupies The Netherlands.  A young Dutch boy named Piet has been given the task of escorting two neighborhood children to safety in Brussels.  The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands, by Louise Borden, is the exciting story of Piet Janssen.  He live in the town of Sluis in the Netherlands.  His town is on the border between The Netherlands and Brussels.  During the winters there, it is so cold that the canals freeze and the ice is thick enough to skate on.  In fact, skating is a form of transportation for many people in the Netherlands.

Piet loves to skate.  He also idolizes a skater named Pim Mulier who once skated through eleven towns.  Many Dutch have skated through towns, but the route that Pim took has its own name, the Elfstedentocht (the Eleven Towns Race).  Piet has been training to duplicate this race and finish just like his idol Pim Mulier.  But in December of 1941, many of the Dutch were concerned with much more than a race along the canals.  Their country was occupied by Germany.  Because of the war, many fathers were gone.  They had joined the Allied forces in England. 

Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai

Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai

"I am so mad at you," the little rabbit says to his mother.  Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai is the story of a little rabbit who is very angry at his mother.  The story continues with the little rabbit listing the reasons for his anger.  For instance, Mommy says that she cannot marry little rabbit even when he gets bigger.  Little rabbit goes on to inform his mother that when he gets bigger he "will do whatever he wants."

Komako Sakai is the author and illustrator of this tender story.  The illustrations are gentle and quiet as they juxtapose a tranquility against the ire of the little rabbit.  The muted tones beautifully capture the story while sparse text expresses the universal sentiment of children at one point or another during their childhood.  Every parent will recognize themselves as a child and will chuckle at the familiar words used by the little rabbit.  They may even recognize their own children.  In particular, the page where the little rabbit expresses his anger and turns his nose up into the air captured the moment beautifully.  I know that I have seen that expression myself.   This story is great to read aloud or for the emerging reader to ponder over after a particularly difficult day. 

In the end, the little rabbit announces that he is going away.  You can almost hear the "huff" as he leaves.   He walks out of the room only to quickly return and ask his mother if she missed him.   In the end the little rabbit and the mother are reconciled and everyone is happy.

Spring Hope

Sharing the Seasons: A Book of Poems

I have hope for spring! Every year, I reach a point where I can’t bear another minute of cold, ice or snow, let alone the barren, brown landscape. Then February and my first harbinger of spring arrives, the Maymont Flower & Garden Show. Despite it all, I am filled with hope. If the weather is wearing you down, a book full of spring may be just what you need to keep trudging along! 

Sharing the Seasons, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, celebrates each season with poems and David Diaz’s vibrant illustrations. My favorite spring poem is by Fran Haraway and describes someone who ignores the chilly, north wind, the leafless trees and the lack of crocuses and though it’s much too cold, sits outside. Focusing instead on the almond tree buds and insisting, despite all other evidence that spring is here.  
  
Old BearLike Old Bear in the book by Kevin Henkes, I even dream of spring. Throughout his hibernation, Old Bear dreams of being a cub again with “flowers as big as trees” and a crocus he can take a nap in. His dreams progress through the seasons, the palette changing from the pinks and purples of spring to the yellows and oranges of autumn until he finally awakens. At long last he pokes his head out and “it took him a minute to realize that he wasn’t dreaming,” spring was indeed here!     
 

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

Pete the Cat cover image

Pete the cat loves his white shoes.  He loves them so very much that he sings about them.  One day while he is walking and singing he steps in some strawberries and his shoes turn red.  But instead of becoming angry, he sings about how much he loves his red shoes.  When he steps in mud and his shoes turn brown, instead of becoming angry, he sings about how much he loves his brown shoes.  The book Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean is a great picture book about a cat that "goes with the flow."

Pete's philosophy is summed up at the end by his statement that "no matter what you step in just keep walking along and singing your song."

Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann

In Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann, Pinkalicious is a little girl who is obsessed with pink and cupcakes. On a rainy day, she makes pink cupcakes with her mom. And she can’t stop eating them! She eats so many, in fact, that she turns a bright shade of pink. Pinkalicious is delighted. How perfect that from the top of her head all the way down to the tip of her toes she is the prettiest bubblegum shade of pink!

Even after a bath, Pinkalicious’s dad cannot make the pink go away. Her parents take her to the doctor who prescribes a strict diet of green vegetables and no more pink. No more pink cupcakes?! No more cotton candy?! Not even watermelon?!